Uneasy Company

Look! Once you clear it, it becomes clear this is a piano, and the pictures leaning against it are now on the walls. The bookcases on either side, however, are projects still in process.

After two months of anticipation, company has come and gone, arriving late and leaving early, which in the case of company is preferable to the opposite, but it still seems a large build-up for 18 hours of togetherness, nine of which took place while sleeping.

For half of her adult life, Lynn has been here in Gunnison, where I’ve been for nearly the entirety of my life, but much of the first half of her adult existence was spent at a resort in northern Wisconsin. She has adapted so readily here that it’s easy for me to forget how much time she spent elsewhere, and how far away her friends and family are.

So she’s been very excited to host three friends from the resort, and we spent days preparing in earnest for their arrival. Only to have them come to Gunnison from the Denver airport by way of Colorado Springs (which is not on the way) for a drive-by viewing of the Garden of the Gods, delaying their arrival on Sunday until 4 p.m.

We knew their visit here was only overnight, but once here they decided as long as they got back to Denver before dark on Monday, they’d be okay. By Monday morning, that had morphed into, “We’d like to skip breakfast and get on the road by 10.”

What it amounts to is a month’s -worth of weekends spent cleaning, rearranging and organizing the house to host an extended dinner for guests.

Not that we want to say this was a misuse of time — our waistlines may not have expanded during the pandemic, but our waste lines certainly have — and Lynn was so glad to have this chance to catch up with dear friends, whose company I enjoyed as well, but as another friend noted, there’s probably a discussion to be had about the ratio of time spent preparing for company versus the time spent with company.

What this really pointed out, as we approached the impending weekend and moved in panic mode from actual sorting and organizing to shoving everything else into the overstuffed sausage that masquerades as our garage, is that if I quit my job today and devoted 10 hours a day, six days a week, to cleaning up my life, I could have it organized by, oh, say, June 21, 2045. That would be assuming that I never accumulated another piece of paper, never received a single piece of mail and never bought another item.

Once upon a time Kara’s sister Shannon was housesitting for friends when a wildfire started on the backside of the hills not too far removed from the house, and the sheriff’s office sent out a pre-evacuation warning. From clear across the country the friends were able to tell Shannon and me what things they wanted packed into their truck and — this is the important part — where all these things were.

It ended up being a major relocation of their belongings that happily wasn’t necessary, the fire remaining on the unhoused side of the hills, but even all these decades later I marvel at the ability to evacuate a Colorado house from the East Coast.

It’s a game I’ve played with myself in the many intervening decades, especially when disaster befalls another part of the country and people are told to evacuate: what would I take with me? I always assume, in these instances — much like I assume there will always be plenty of time left in life for me to get my act together — that such an evacuation would come with ample hours in which to pack.

You can always find plenty of articles advising you to have an emergency bag packed at all times, but this advice presupposes you are organized enough to remember that everything in this bag is going to expire at some point, and you need to rotate through on a continuous basis, not just cram it into a corner of your overloaded garage until the day 12 years hence when you need to find it in a hurry.

So while medications ought to be at the top of a grab-and-go list, you don’t want to store them in your bag, and I can guarantee (given I just realized that for the third time in a week I forgot to take my morning pills) that medication would be the absolute first thing Lynn and I would both overlook during an evacuation.

We do have a fireproof box that holds some percentage of our important documents, and even though it’s fireproof and fire might be the number-one reason we would have to evacuate —

[We’re outside the 500-year floodplain, for whatever that’s worth in the realm of climate change, and I’ve always figured it would probably take the collapse of Taylor Dam for water to reach us, but perhaps I shouldn’t be too self-assured or smug. You just never know, these days.]

— we would probably be better advised to take this ream of paper along. I just read the other day, in the most recent iteration of evacuation awareness, that it’s a great idea to stash at least $2,000 in cash in your house. I have my doubts about this wisdom, but this advisor was concerned about electro-magnetic pulses or Texas nonchalance toward power grids that might render our credit cards and phones useless.

My sister Terri has always liked to say, “This is America. You can buy anything you want” from wherever you are, which was true until supply chains started imploding. But you can still buy most of what you’d need; therefore, if I were rushing around grabbing things to throw into the car, one of the first items would be my baby blanket.

Well, it was a baby blanket nearly 60 years ago, and I used it all through childhood until it was in tatters in my teen years and the grandmother who made it for me was begging me to throw it away. I refused, and since she was a grandma, she took me down to the fabric store where I picked out new cloth, which she sewed around the remnants of the old blanket. I used it in lieu of a robe for many years, until Grandma was no longer around to patch it, but it still reposes on my bed and no matter how unnecessary would be something I’d want to keep.

And of course animals would need to come with us, so I don’t really know why I think there will be time to empty the firebox, remember where I stashed $2K, or run about forgetting medications, because we will spend every last minute of our allotted evacuation time attempting to round up animals, an exercise that would be exactly like herding cats.

What it comes down to is that I am taking the approach of many of my countrypeople, that of assuming I don’t actually need to worry about this because bad things only happen to other people. I will throw it into the project hopper that is so overfull every last project may spill out onto the floor, where they can neatly be kicked under the stove and forgotten.

As I started on Project Company Coming, I did think that if I tried to set aside five hours a week, maybe I could get some things organized, but as I went along, picking up, storing, stuffing, I kept realizing the extent of disarray my life has become. At five hours a week, I will have to live forever — or let it all go in some natural disaster I don’t evacuate well enough from.

Or just never invite company over, ever again. No matter how nice it was to see them.

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